Three Southtowns men were charged with spray painting graffiti on two Hamburg churches and several other buildings in a spree of tagging late Sunday or early Monday.
Hamburg police received an anonymous tip that helped lead them to the defendants, Samuel Echeverria and Zachery Wasyl, both of Hamburg, and Sean Ratliff, of Angola. All three are 19 years old.
The graffiti created a stir in the hamlet of Wanakah, near Lake Shore Road, where most of the tagging was found.
Most of the buildings were defaced with a depiction of a crown and the word "BLANK" spelled out with green spray paint.
St. Mary of the Lake Catholic School also was spray-painted with the word "SATAN" in purple above the building's cornerstone, which includes a carved cross. And another area of the school was spray-painted with "6.6.6" -- a number that in the biblical Book of Revelation alludes to the mark of the "antichrist" and often is associated with evil.
"That kind of graffiti on a house of worship is certainly troubling," said Kevin A. Keenan, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
Keenan credited Hamburg police with taking the incident seriously and working quickly to find the culprits.
The crude references weren't the work of occult members or devil worshippers, Hamburg police said.
"It's kids acting stupid," said Detective Todd Ehret. "To me, it's clear they're not Satanic worshippers or anything like that."
The parish hired Suburban Property Maintenance to clean up the mess with a power washer and chemical sprays.
The other church defaced was Bible Fellowship Church on Rogers Road, where Pastor William Flick used lacquer thinner Tuesday afternoon to remove spray paint from the church's vinyl siding.
"I'm the pastor here -- and the janitor," said Flick, who discovered the graffiti while walking his dog behind the church Monday morning.
The backside of the church was sprayed with an obscenity, along with the "BLANK"-and-crown tag and a depiction of a marijuana plant.
"I just think it was kids being stupid and not using their heads and not being respectful," he said.
The alleged taggers also marked Wanakah Pharmacy on Lake Shore Road, Cloverbank Elementary School on Cloverbank Road and Walmart on Route 20, police said.
After getting the tip, police located video evidence from Walmart that shows Echeverria leaving the store with stolen spray paint and getting into a white Ford Taurus with Wasyl and Ratliff.
The three males then exit the car and start to paint graffiti on Walmart's building, police said the video shows.
Police showed up at the church Monday morning with one of the defendants, according to Flick, who said he was told the three admitted to the crimes.
"Two of them were remorseful. One still thought it was pretty funny," said Flick.
Echeverria, Wasyl and Ratliff were charged with making graffiti, third-degree criminal mischief and first-degree aggravated harassment for the defacement of churches.